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Chicago Blackhawks’ NHL Draft Second-Round Projections

By Colin Likas
Jun 2, 2015; Tampa, FL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman talks with media during media day the day before the 2015 Stanley Cup Final at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 2, 2015; Tampa, FL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman talks with media during media day the day before the 2015 Stanley Cup Final at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /
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Chicago Blackhawks Have Three-Second Round Draft Picks Today

After the Chicago Blackhawks dealt Andrew Shaw to the Montreal Canadiens on Friday for a pair of second-round draft picks, they had tripled their number of selections in today’s second round. For a team without a first-round choice, that’s certainly nice to hear.

The Blackhawks received the 39th and 45th overall picks in addition to the 50th overall pick they previously held. So action will be fast and furious for General Manager Stan Bowman and Co. once the final six rounds of the draft kick off at 9 a.m. (Central) today. You can watch it all unfold on NHL Network, by the way.

But we’re here to take a look at what the Blackhawks might do with their three-second round picks. The team certainly has some issues to address as far as organizational depth is concerned, specifically at goaltender and defense.

Let’s take a look at who might hear their names called when the Blackhawks come up to the plate each of their three times in this year’s second round.

No. 39: G Filip Gustavsson, Sweden

Other possibilities: G Carter Hart, Canada; D Kale Clague, Canada

I really think the Blackhawks should be targeting a goaltender in the second round. Bowman received two second-rounders for Shaw, and he needs to put them to work toward to the Blackhawks’ biggest needs. Chicago is the only team that received an ‘F’ from InGoal Magazine in their latest goaltending prospects depth chart rankings. So that’s probably a need, right?

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Gustavsson is believed by many to be the top goaltending prospect available, as none were taken in the first round. Hockey’s Future also lists Gustavsson as the No. 2 overall Swedish prospect up for selection in the draft.

Gustavsson checks in at 6-foot-2, 184 pounds, and just had his 18th birthday this month. He saw his first professional league action in the last year of hockey, playing in six games for Lulea HF in the Swedish Hockey League and posting four wins, a .910 save percentage and a 2.17 goals-against average.

Hockey’s Draft notes that Gustavsson “shows great anticipation and knows how to cover the posts better than most. His reflexes are above-average, and he can simply shut down opponents when he gets in a groove.” This sounds like a goaltender the Blackhawks can develop into a future starter, as Corey Crawford cannot last forever, and Scott Darling isn’t the greatest of all long-term options.

Hart is also a top-rated goaltender in this draft, and at just 17 years of age is another goaltender the Blackhawks could develop for a future starting role. Hart posted a .918/2.14 slashline in 63 regular-season games for the WHL’s Everett Silvertips last season before adding a stellar .929/2.39 line in six postseason tilts.

Clague is a Nick Leddy-type of defenseman, from the sound of it. Eliteprospects.com describes the 18-year-old as “a tantalizing blend of speed, cunning, and craftiness. Very smooth skater that is mobile at a professional level. Great vision and is able to control plays with the puck on his stick. Creative passer.” For a team that also needs some organizational defensive depth, Clague would be a solid choice.

No. 45: D Victor Mete, Canada

Other possibilities: D Josh Mahura, Canada; D Cam Dineen, United States

With the hope the Blackhawks are able to snag a goaltender with the first of their three-second-round picks, the focus for Bowman should be defense with this selection just six picks later. I’m going to go with Mete as the winner of being drafted by the Blackhawks with this pick.

It’s no secret the Blackhawks need to replenish their blue-line ranks in the minors leagues after trading most of their young defensemen to improve the team for runs at the Stanley Cup. The team’s current top defensive prospect, Ville Pokka, doesn’t even seem to have the trust of his organization to successfully compete at the NHL level, which is obviously a problem.

Mete is a puck-moving defenseman, something the Blackhawks have in limited supply, which reared its ugly head throughout the 2015-16 season. Not that drafting Mete would rectify this issue for 2016-17, but it would at least make the issue less of a problem moving forward.

The 18-year-old could bear to put some size on (5-10, 165 pounds), but he has time to take car of that. Regardless of his size, he already has strong skills with the puck. Mete posted 38 points in 68 regular-season games with the OHL’s London Knights last season, adding 11 points in a postseason that saw the Knights win the Memorial Cup.

As described by The Hockey Writers, Mete’s “elite-level skating ability more than compensates for his lack of size. While his great skating allows him to jump into the rush on the attack or keep pace with opposing forwards in the defensive zone, Mete’s greatest strength is his offensive instincts.” For those worried about his actual defense, The Hockey Writers says “Mete has improved by leaps and bounds in his own end and even lined up on the penalty kill at some points last season.”

Mahura might have gone earlier in the draft had he not suffered a knee injury before the 2015-16 season. It cost him all but two regular-season games with the WHL’s Red Deer Rebels, but he managed four points in 17 postseason tilts. He checks in at 6 feet, 170 pounds, but reportedly moves well in spite of his size. This is a blueliner the Blackhawks could build into a two-way monster.

Dineen is an offensive defenseman if there ever was one. The 18-year-old’s numbers look like those of a forward: 59 points in 68 regular-season games and eight points in 11 postseason contests. All but 13 of those total points were by way of assist, but that’s not something the Blackhawks would complain about. He’s also a decent-sized player at 5-11, 185 pounds, and he clearly doesn’t lack the ability to bring the offense from the blue line.

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No. 50: LW Tyler Benson, Canada

Other possibilities: LW Connor Bunnaman, Canada; G Tyler Parsons, United States

Benson would be a bit of a gamble pick, but the Blackhawks could really use some good wing size in the system, and Benson provides that.

The 18-year-old checks in at 6 feet, 196 pounds, and posted 28 points in just 30 games last season with the WHL’s Vancouver Giants. He was also the team captain after posting 45 points in 62 games in his initial season with the Giants.

According to The Hockey Writers, Benson has “drawn comparisons to (New York Islanders forward) John Tavares in terms of his skating, mobility and general on-ice awareness.” So what’s the trouble? Benson missed 42 games last season due to a lower-body injury, crippling his draft stock.

If the Blackhawks are willing to gamble a bit, they could hit a diamond in the rough here. Considering they had the previous two second-round picks to really shore up areas of need, why not take a chance with this selection?

If that’s not something Bowman would like to do, Bunnaman may be a better option at left wing. He’s about as sizeable as Benson (6 feet, 183 pounds) and posted 38 points in 68 regular-season games with the 2015-16 Kitchener Rangers of the OHL.

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Should the Blackhawks have struck out on acquiring a goaltender with an earlier second-round choice, Parsons would be a fine pick here. He posted a solid .921/2.33 slashline in 49 regular-season games with the London Knights last season, upping his stats to .925/2.15 in the team’s Memorial Cup run. The Blackhawks certainly couldn’t go wrong at this point with developing a goaltender.

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